Specialist mortgage lender, Foundation Home Loans, found that 11% of landlords are using social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn to initially screen tenants. It’s been argued as an invasion of privacy into tenants’ lives, but given the importance of rental income and positive tenant relationships, is it surprising that landlords are using information in the public domain to find out about potential tenants? Should best practice and caution be applied when using these methods to gather extra tenant information to help make decisions?
Landlords Keeping Informed
It’s important landlords stay up to date on social media and privacy laws or amendments, however an individual has responsibility to protect the data they share and what to keep private. As only one in seven (14%) of landlords say they visit their properties once a month to see their tenants and carry out repairs, gaining an insight on the characters living in their property is naturally an important concern amongst them.
However, there are other methods of screening tenants also used by landlords. Almost a third (29%) rely on an interview to help them decide whether they are right for the property. Personal references are preferred by 34%, allowing them to understand the personalities whilst maintaining a reasonable distance. Employer references are preferred by more 18-34-year-old landlords (38%) while previous landlord references are valued by those aged 35-54 as well as over 55s (41% and 33%).
Jeff Knight is Marketing Director at Foundation Home Loans and thinks buy to let is a business, therefore it’s only natural that landlords would want to vet their potential tenants just as an employer would a potential employee. He said, “While Facebook and social media accounts may not be the best source of information if used in isolation, they can offer valuable insight when set against other checks such as personal references and credit checks.
“Maintaining a good rental income is a priority and void periods can be particularly damaging, so it’s important to ensure this is not a risk when new tenants move in.”
Be Cautious Not to Discriminate
Under the Equality Act 2010, landlords cannot discriminate against potential tenants based on their race, gender, familial status, ethnicity, or disability. However, social media offers information about ‘grey areas’ such as their likes, dislikes, friends and comments. These aren’t conclusive when making an informed decision regarding whether a potential tenant will pay their rent. The results of researching a person via social media can cast them in a certain light in the landlord’s mind. For example, photographs of someone partying regularly don’t necessarily mean that the individual will be frequently loud and careless with the property. Political views that don’t align to the landlord’s could put them off, but this isn’t a reasonable cause to reject a potential tenant either.
The recommended advice is to use social media with caution, making sure it is for the right reasons. Apply best practice for screening candidates which would be having a robust application process in place, and this should be the main basis for deciding on tenants for rental properties.
Let Us Assist You
Our check in service gives you piece of mind when allowing a new tenant to enter your home. If we spot any last minute dangers then we will of course flag this to the landlord or agent who has instructed us. If you do have ongoing concerns, we are also able to carry out mid-tenancy checks to ensure your property is being cared for correctly.
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